A classic casino game, Blackjack, also known as 21, is a thrilling card game that involves high strategy and skills to win. Counting card values and adding them to get a total of 21 sounds easy, right? Indeed, it’s easy to count cards to 21, but sometimes the odds are not in favor of even an expert blackjack player with a perfect game. On the other hand, a beginner with a good game may win at blackjack as odds may be in their favor. So, it’s all about the odds and how you use the right strategies to get them in your favor.
Whether you are playing the game at home or in a casino, the rules remain the same. However, if playing in a casino, the house is always the dealer who remains standing at the blackjack table while the players remain seated. The dealer runs the game from shuffling to dealing and handling the bets. If you play blackjack casually with friends and family at home, all the players get an opportunity to become the dealer.
Here’s a small guide to learn how to play blackjack if you have never played the game before.
What is the Objective of Blackjack?
The object of the game for every player is to beat the dealer’s hand total by getting a card count as close to 21 as possible and not crossing 21.
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What are the Basic Blackjack Rules?
The rules of blackjack may vary slightly from casino to casino; however, most rules are similar across online blackjack games and casinos. You must learn the basic rules below before starting the blackjack game:
- The goal is to beat the dealer’s hand total without exceeding the value of 21.
- Aces are worth 1 or 11, face cards are worth 10, and other cards are worth their face value. For instance, 3 is worth 3, 6 is worth 6, and 9 is worth 9.
- Each player gets two cards, and the dealer’s second card is not revealed until the end.
- If a player’s hand total goes over 21, they bust, and the dealer wins regardless of their hand.
- An ace and a 10-worth card form a natural blackjack which beats all other hands except another natural blackjack.
- Depending on the casino, a player usually wins 1.5 times his bet in blackjack.
- Players cannot play on two aces once they have been split.
- Splitting cards also doubles the wager as a new hand is formed, which must be the same as the original wager.
How to Play Blackjack for Beginners?
Usually, only one standard deck of 52 cards is used in a blackjack game, but most casinos use more than one standard deck in the games. For instance, the blackjack games with 6-decks are the most popular ones. Furthermore, the dealer in casinos also uses a plastic card, which is not dealt but placed underneath the pack and works as a reminder to reshuffle the cards. Also, when a dealer uses four or more packs, the decks are dealt from a shoe, a box from where the dealer deals one card at a time, face down.
- When playing blackjack, you must keep in mind the value of each card to count cards properly.
- Cards numbered 2 to 10 have values equal to their face value.
- The face cards, King, Queen, and Jack, have values equal to 10
- Ace is either valued at 1 or 11, depending on the hand total.
- A hand with the ace valued as 11 is known as a soft hand, and the rest of the hands are called hard hands.
- A natural blackjack, which is a starting hand of an ace and a card valued as 10, beats all other hands, excluding another blackjack.
- If both the dealer and the player have a blackjack, the result is a tie (push). Both the player and the house don’t win in a tie, and the bet is returned to the player.
Blackjack card game is generally played on a semi-circular table in casinos that can seat a different number of players. Most tables accommodate seven players, but a few even accommodate five players or twelve players. The dealer’s place is behind the table, and the players are seated opposite the dealer, facing the dealer and the chip rack.
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The player buys chips
The first step to playing a blackjack game is buying chips, as most casinos don’t indulge in cash plays. To buy chips from the dealer, the players place the money on the table’s felt, a pit boss verifies the amount, and the dealer counts the chips and pushes them towards the player. The player then uses the chips to place their wager.
The player places a bet
When the round begins, the first step is to place a bet on the felt of the blackjack table with the chips. The table has signs of the betting limits placed on either side. Blackjack tables have minimum and maximum bet limits, which can differ based on the casino or online gaming platforms.
Dealer deals cards
After the players place their bets on the felt of the table, the dealer deals one card each, face-up, in a clockwise direction, to every player seated. Then the dealer deals one card, face-down, for self. The dealer deals the second card, face-up, one at a time, to each player and deals the second card for self, face-up.
The deal leaves each player with two cards each, face-up, so that the dealer can count the cards and arrive at the hand total. The dealer has only one card face-up and the other card face-down.
The player plays a hand
The dealer starts with the player on their left to play their hand. The first player counts the two cards dealt face-up and adds the values to get a hand total. The hand total can be anywhere between 4 to 21, depending on the cards in hand. If the player is dealt an Ace and a 10-value card as the first two cards, it is a natural blackjack, and the dealer pays 1.5 times the wager right away. However, if the dealer also gets a blackjack, it’s called a push, the player will not be paid anything, and the bet is returned to the player.
If both the player and the dealer don’t get a blackjack, the dealer waits for the player to decide which hand to play next. The player makes a hand signal to communicate the hand to be played which can either be Split, Surrender, Double Down, Hit, or Stand. Here’s what each hand signal means:
If the player has a low hand total, the player can ask to be dealt more cards to improve the hand total. The player chooses the hit hand signal, and the dealer deals more cards, one at a time, until the player decides to stand or goes bust (hand total exceeds 21). The player taps the felt with a finger to signify the hit hand signal.
If the player is satisfied with the hand total of the first two cards and doesn’t want another card, they can choose to stand, and the dealer moves on to the next player. You can wave your hand or place an open palm on the felt to signify the stand hand signal.
If the player is dealt two cards which is a pair (cards of the same value), they can choose to put a second wager and split the two cards. Upon splitting the pair, each card becomes the first card of a new hand. A player can split even face cards even if they may not be a pair such as King, Queen, and Jack as they have the same value. To signify the split hand signal, the player puts a second bet equal to the original bet and makes a peace sign with the finger to split the cards. The dealer splits the two cards into two hands and deals the second card for each hand.
If the player doesn’t like the two cards dealt, they can choose to surrender (give up) the cards in exchange for half of their initial wager. To signify the surrender hand signal, the player draws a horizontal line on the felt behind their bet along with saying the word surrender verbally so that the dealer doesn’t mistake the signal for a hit. The dealer then returns half of the wager back to the player.
If a player feels that their hand total is advantageous and just one additional card can make it better, they can double their initial bet, and the dealer deals one more card. To signify a double down hand, the player puts forward their wager on the left of the original wager, and the dealer gives one card turned sideways, which indicates that the player cannot take any more cards.
Some casinos allow players to double down for less than the original bet. However, whenever a player chooses to double down, it’s wiser to double for the full amount.
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Dealer plays hand
The players play their hand solely based on the dealer’s up-card (the card that is face-up). After the players have played their hands, the dealer turns his second card to see the hand total. This is when the players and the dealer gets to know who won the bet.
Once you, the other players, and the dealer are done playing the hands, two situations may occur:
The dealer makes a hand – If the dealer makes a hand and you are still in play, the higher hand total wins. If the dealer has a higher hand total, you lose your bet. If your hand total is higher than the dealer, the dealer pays 1x of your wager to you. If the dealer and you have the exact hand total, it is a tie or a push. In the case of a tie, the dealer pays nothing, and your bet is returned to you.
The dealer busts – If the dealer busts (makes a hand total over 21), the dealer pays (1 times the wager) to each hand still in play on the table.
Once each player’s bets are settled, the dealer collects all the cards and places them at the side. The dealer deals from the shoe and continues until he reaches the plastic card inserted in the deck, which indicates the time to reshuffle. After the round is over, the dealer shuffles the cards and places them in the shoe to continue the game.
To win in a blackjack game, each player requires a basic strategy and winning tactics based on the dealer’s upcard. Your winning strategy must be based on the dealer’s face-up card. Here are several circumstances where you must implement a basic strategy to play your hand in an optimum way.
Dealer’s upcard is poor
When the dealer has a poor upcard which maybe a 4, 5, or 6, you should not draw any more cards as soon as you have a hand total of 12 or higher. The chances are that you may go bust. The strategy here is that without taking more cards, you can expect the dealer to hit and cross 21.
Dealer’s upcard is good
When the dealer has a good upcard, probably an ace, 7, 8, 9, or a ten-value card, you should continue to hit until you have a hand total of 17 or more.
Dealer’s upcard is fair
When the dealer has a fair hand, with a 2 or 3 card, you should stop at a hand total of 13 or higher.
Soft hand strategy
When you have a soft hand, the basic strategy is to hit until you have a hand total of at least 18. For instance, if you even have an ace and a six, which makes a hand total of 17, you should keep hitting.
Doubling down strategy
Your doubling down basic strategy should be as follows: If you have a hand total of 11, you can consider doubling down. You can consider doubling down with a ten-value card or a hand total of 10 unless the dealer shows an ace or a ten-card. With a hand total of 9, you should consider doubling down only when the dealer has a poor or fair hand (cards between 2 to 6).
Your splitting strategy should be as follows: you must always split if you get a pair of aces or 8s. If you get a pair of 10s or 5s, you should not split because you can use the hand total of 10 more effectively by doubling down. You should not even split a pair of 4s as the hand total of 8 is a good number to hit. Unless the dealer’s card is poor, you should not even consider splitting 6s. If you have 2, 3, or 7, you can consider splitting unless the dealer has an ace, 8, 9, or a ten-card.
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This guide is enough to teach you all the essential aspects of the blackjack game and to start playing with effective strategies. The game also features special conditions such as insurance bet, dead hand, side bets, and non-insurable dealer blackjack, where the game deviates from the above rules. However, most blackjack games are played as per the rules mentioned above. With this guide backing you up, you can now go ahead and try your hand at the blackjack game with confidence.